Parkers overall rating: 4 out of 5 4.0
  • M235i is a real rocket
  • 220d also quick
  • 218i less so

The 218i is the slowest model in the range, at 8.7sec to 62mph and a top speed of 134mph. It’s a 1.5-litre, three-cylinder engine that’s turbocharged to produce 140hp and 220Nm of torque, which is still reasonable for a mainstream car.

BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe 218i engine 2020

With 190hp, the 220d diesel is genuinely swift, thanks partly to its 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine churning out a plentiful 400Nm of torque. Its top speed is a healthy 146mph and it can accelerate to 62mph in 7.5sec.

The top-of-the range M235i xDrive is a very fast car. It has all-wheel-drive for extra traction  - sending up to 50% of the power to the rear wheels - and gets from 0-62mph in 4.9 seconds, with a top speed electronically limited to 155mph. All this performance is courtesy of a 2.0-litre petrol engine, which is also claimed to be the firm’s most powerful four-cylinder engine currently on sale.

There is 306hp on tap, but it’s the 450Nm of torque that you’ll notice most on the road, making the M235i feel muscular at all speeds and with plenty of punch for overtaking. This is also helped by the lower gears being quite short, which helps the engine rev quicker and keep you right in the power band. As a result, the top speed for each gear is quite low and you may have to work through the gears more often, but this is ideal for brisk acceleration.

Thankfully, this engine is keen to work to the top of the rev range and it’s power delivery doesn’t tail off dramatically at higher rpm, so it’s muscular, like a diesel, but one that’s willing to work hard and rev towards 6,000rpm with ease.

Sounds pretty good too…

The M235i also makes a pleasing noise, from both inside the cabin and through its sportier exhaust system outside. You can hear a deep rumble from the engine inside the cabin, and while you get some artificial noise piped through the stereo speakers, they’ve at least tried to mimic a six-cylinder engine with a high pitched note and it’s largely convincing.

Outside, you can visually identify this performance model by the diamond-shaped exhaust mufflers on the rear bumper.  Thankfully, while they’ve engineered a dramatic crackle when starting up the car, it’s not over-the-top elsewhere - unlike some rivals that pop, bang or crackle with every gearshift.

Gearbox choice

The 220d and M235i are available only with an eight-speed automatic gearbox, while the 218i has a choice of either manual or dual-clutch automatic.

BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe M235i automatic gearbox 2020

The automatic gearbox impresses in the 220d and M235i, shifting smoothly but also swiftly and making a good fist of picking the right gear at the right time when left to its own devices. These two engines also come with shift paddles on the steering wheel for you to manually select which gear to be in, which respond well.

As found in other BMWs, the choice of Eco Pro, Comfort and Sport drive modes is available. These go as far as sharpening up the throttle response and automatic gearbox, and weightening up the steering to increase the level of involvment.

BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe handling

  • Excellent body control and cornering
  • Responsive steering makes it fun to drive
  • M235i has bags of grip

As mentioned in the Comfort section, we’ve driven M Sport models on the firmer and lower suspension setup, and while the ride quality is tough on rougher road surfaces, this does translate into fantastic body control. All versions use a sophisticated multi-link rear setup and they absorb mid-corner bumps without fuss or deviation.

We’re yet to drive the entry-level Sport with its softer, standard suspension, but we doubt the added comfort will be detrimental to the Gran Coupe’s handling.

The steering isn’t as sharp as other BMWs but will be responsive enough for most, and it is well weighted. Body roll is very well maintained, and the Gran Coupe does feel quite nimble and light on its feet,  with plenty of grip on offer.

The M235i comes with stiffer mounting points for its suspension and results in being quick in corners too. This model also comes with a limited-slip differential to aid front-end grip and it’s not too aggressive in day-to-day driving. You can occasionally notice it tugging at the steering wheel during low speed manoeuvres, but you certainly won’t have to wrestle it down your favourite country road - it still has that BMW trait of covering ground in an effortless way.

Despite this, the front tyres can lose grip and wash wide a little prematurely in the wet – and perhaps a little sooner than some would expect - but otherwise this is an effective all-weather saloon.

There’s plenty of grip, it feels safe and secure, but, like it’s all-wheel drive rivals, such as the Mercedes-AMG A35 and outgoing Audi S3 saloon, it feels a little inert with little sense of grip levels through the steering wheel. As a result, the focus on grip and lack of involvement may struggle to excite certain drivers.